Elderly people who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol are less likely to develop

dementia than teetotallers, an Australian study shows.

The study, led by Dr. Kaarin Anstey of the Center for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University, analyzed the results of several researches that involved some 10,000 people globally.

"We found that light to moderate drinkers were 28 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's than non-drinkers, 25 percent less likely to develop vascular dementia, and 26 percent less likely to develop any dementia," Anstey said in a statement.

Anstey said it wasn't clear why moderate consumption of alcohol could reduce the risk of dementia, but suggested that it could be to do with a protective effect of alcohol in reducing inflammation and heart disease or the benefits of social interaction associated with drinking.

The study also found that the link between drinking and dementia was the same for men and women, but did not analyze the type of drinks consumed, or whether the findings were true for alcohol consumption when young.

The report is published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.